Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2017

Please Say No to "GMO"

Precise Science Demands Precise Nomenclature In science and medicine, the terminology applied can be the difference between life and death, success and failure. Words have precise meanings, and a productive dialogue in the sciences requires adherence to a common set of mutually recognized terms. Shared meaning is like a verbal handshake that ensures a positive connection where information can flow. Genetic engineering , familiarly known by the slippery colloquialism ‘GMO’, has been central to the production of drugs like insulin, enzymes used in cheese making, and laboratory-produced fibers. The widest-recognized successes have been the adoption of the technology by 20 million farmers onto almost half a billion acres of farmland, most of those in the developing world. Some 70 percent of grocery store products now contain ingredients from genetically engineered plants. And while scientists and farmers acknowledge concerns arising from the overuse of the technology, such as weed

How Activists Use Taxpayers to Attack Scientists

Jonathan Jarry from the Body of Evidence Podcast provides outstanding insight into the recent US-RTK-driven allegations against Dr. Peter Phillips at the University of Saskatchewan.  The industry-funded activist group used CBC Saskatoon to deliver a baseless hit piece that attempts to tarnish a respected scholar.  Jarry unveils how these attacks work. 

Should Hydroponic Production be Eliminated "Organic" Consideration?

Hydroponic cultivation is considered to be an important technology in the future production of some specialty crops in urban centers.  The concept is simple.  Indoor farms offer the capacity to grow high-value specialty crops in confined, climate controlled space.  They repurpose poorly-used city space, and hire skilled and unskilled workers in population centers.  Most of all, these operations limit the carbon footprint of specialty crop production, which now does not need long-distance transportation.  In some cases the plant products can ease the deficiencies associated with fresh fruit and vegetable scarcity in urban food deserts, areas under-served by large produce retailers.  Dr. Wan Feng describes the effects of bioponic organic fertilizers on lettuce production in a hydroponic system.  While no synthetic chemicals are used, it may not be sold as "organic". Photo from ICCEA Panama, May 17, 2017. In many cases producers are able to grow crops without pestic

Distinguished Researcher Under Activist Attack

Professor Peter Phillips from the University of Saskatchewan is accused of dirty collusion with Monsanto.  Confiscated emails were stripped of quotations that could be used against him-- read the emails, learn the story, get mad.  This is a good man under activist attack, and shows what these merchants of doubt are all about.  Read the story here. 

Talking Biotech #81 - Potatoes- Past, Present and Future

This week's podcast is an interview with Dr. David Douches of Michigan State University. David is a traditional potato breeder that explains how wild traits can be moved to improve our rather limited landscape of varieties.  We then talk about biotech traits and efforts being used to create more resistant varieties that can cut dependence on fungicides and other crop protection strategies. 

A Tearful Graduation

April 29th was marked on my calendar for a long time.  It was graduation in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. As Chair of a department I'm part of the platform party, the folks that sit on the stage during the event.  Many folks look at such university events as a chore. It is Saturday night, you have to wear that skull-squeezing mortarboard and the toasty regalia.  Parking is impossible and you're pretty much staying on campus for the night.  And it could not be more wonderful.  It means a lot to me.  Because they tried to take it away.  My view from the stage - graduates and their families gather to celebrate.  It is an emotional time, because I almost lost this. In 2015 I endured a painful personal and professional attack that almost drove me out of science.  Over the last 17 years I've been glad to talk to the public about genetic engineering, and that bothers those that profit from fighting it.   Activist organizations use

Mother Nature, Genetic Engineer -- The Sweet Potato

We broadly place potatoes into one of two categories-- sweet potatoes, and the other kind.  But what are the differences? What are the breeding priorities and opportunities? Episode 80 of the Talking Biotech Podcast visits with Dr. Jan Kreuze from the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. Dr. Kreuze discusses what a sweet potato is, it's genetic origins, and why it is an example of natural genetic engineering.  A DNA insertion event, from the same bacteria used in the lab, placed DNA into the genome in a way that changed domestication traits. In other words, humans found benefit because of the insertion.  The episode raises important questions about what it means to be genetically engineered, relative risk, and the true need for labeling-- someone nobody is too worried about the sweet potato.